Zincograph, with some navigation markers heightened in yellow, some contemporary manuscript navigational additions in pencil (Good, but with noticeable wear along old folds with some small surface loss especially to the centre), 85.5 x 67 cm (33.5 x 26.5 inches).
This is the first sea chart of the harbour of Massawa predicated upon proper scientific surveys, as well as one of the only detailed early maps of the city of Massawa as remodeled by the new Italian colonial regime. Massawa was conquered by the Italians in 1885, becoming their first major base in Africa, and the anchor of Eritrea, its ‘Colonia Primogenita’. The Italians quickly developed Massawa into a modern industrial port and naval base, adding new quarters and much infrastructure.
The present chart is based upon surveys conducted by various commanders (named in the title) of the Italian Navy in 1886 and was first published in Genoa by the Real Istituto Idrografico the following year. The present example of the chart is significantly updated, having been issued in December 1911.
The chart shows the old, or native, city on ‘Massua’ island, in the centre, with its dense warren of streets in traditional style, focused around on the renamed ‘Plaza Garibaldi’, while the eastern part of the island it taken up the ‘Ospidale Militare’ (military hospital) and the ‘Missione Francese’ (French Catholic mission).
The new, or Italian, city is located on the southwest side of ‘Taluad’ Island, laid out with urban blocks in a neat grid patters, labeling the major public buildings, such as the ‘Serraglio’ (Governor’s Palace), ‘Commando’ (military headquarters) and ‘Poste’ (post office). The islands are shown to be connected to the mainland by causeways, with Taluad Island linked to the Massawa-Asmara railroad, which was completed in 1911, the very year that the present edition of the map was issued.
To the north of the harbour is the ‘Abd-el-Kader’ Peninsula, an industrial zone connected to the railway, which is home to the naval ‘Arsenale’. The ‘Gherar’ Peninsula, on the western side of the harbour, is a military zone featuring Fort Gherar and large barracks, and is protected from the mainland by a fortified line. Aqueducts and telegraph lines are shows to run into the interior.
The present chart is very rare; we can trace only 2 examples of any of the editions, held by the Biblioteca nazionale centrale (Firenze) and the Biblioteca Nazionale di Bari.
References: Biblioteca nazionale centrale (Firenze): IT\ICCU\CFI\0584401; Biblioteca Nazionale di Bari: (Inv. Carte Geogr. B 223); Lucio CARBONARA, Francesca CALACE et al., ‘Restituiamo la Storia’ dagli archivi ai territori: Architetture e modelli urbani nel Mediterraneo orientale (Roma, 2006), illustrated on p. 20, referred to on p. 21; Rivista di artiglieria e genio, vol. 1 (Rome, 1889), p. 444.